Having blood drawn is rarely something to look forward to. When you’re only 3 years old or even 12 years old, it might even be scary! That’s where we come in. I’m Boone, a black Labrador retriever. My brother Hoss and I are proud members of the Animal Assisted Therapy Program here at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. There are 17 of us dogs in all. We allow handlers – who happen to be humans – to come along with us when we make rounds. But really, it’s all about the children we help.
Doctors, nurses, therapists and parents may request our help for any number of reasons. We make rounds just like the doctors do. Our rounds include clinics and the hospital, from imaging, oncology and Herma Heart Center, to occupational, physical and speech therapies and the lab. On any given day we average 27 service requests and we visit the hospital Monday through Friday.
Each of us attends doggy boot camp and must pass rigorous behavioral testing. All of us volunteer our time, including our handlers. Gwen Clark is the volunteer coordinator of our program for Children’s Hospital. Gwen’s job is to make sure that, while we are working, we remain calm and gentle with each child or adult we meet. We have furry important – I mean very important – jobs.
One time I remember when a young girl took me for a walk down the hospital hallway. Doesn’t sound like a big deal? Well, she hadn’t been able to get out of her bed in two months. The nurses and the doctors all clapped and cheered for her. I was so proud to help.
Another time my brother Hoss visited a patient who needed a little extra help with hand-eye coordination. The physical therapist and I worked it out very smoothly. The boy threw the ball to me a bunch of times, exercising his large motor skills then, the boy brushed my fur, exercising his small motor skills. I looked extra wonderful that day. My boy even hugged me after working so hard. I love hugs!
And recently we’ve been invited to the lab. A lab in a lab, get it? Like I said, we all get a little anxious when we have to have blood drawn. I know my paws sweat! But we help the lab technicians because we distract the children with our good looks and awesome personalities.
There was that time when I walked into the lab with a young girl who had to have her blood drawn. She was scared so I told her I would stay with her the entire time. (Actually I didn’t say that. My handler did.) I sat right by the little girl’s side in the waiting room, and she and I walked back to the lab together. I pretended I was having my blood drawn too. We both put on our tourniquets and our brave faces. Before she even knew it, the nurse had drawn her blood and it was over! The crying stopped and the giggles started. Sometimes a little distraction works wonders. The children aren’t as stressed out, the parents aren’t as stressed out, the lab is able to perform the work quicker and I get some TLC from great kids.
I like to call what we do a woof-woof situation. My handler? She calls it a win-win situation. So, if you are ever in the hospital, please say hello to us. We’re never too busy to stop for a new friend!
-Boone, Animal-assisted Therapy program.
Learn more about Children’s Hospital at chw.org.